At Community Board 3s State Liquor Authority Committee meeting, developer Matthew Moss of the Cooper Square Hotel, standing at right, and his attorney, Donald Bernstein, also standing, were asked to accept some strict terms of operation in return for the boards approval of the new hotels liquor license application.
C.B. 3 raises the bar for hotel liquor license bid
By Matt Townsend
Matthew Moss looked exhausted on Tuesday night Dec. 12 as he left an assisted living residence on E. Fifth St. It looked like he was in need of some assistance himself.
The developer had just spent two hours on his feet in front of an unsupportive crowd trying to state his case as to why his development project, the Cooper Square Hotel, should receive a liquor license.
Im fried, Moss said, looking at his associates huddled around him after Community Board 3s State Liquor Authority committee meeting had ended. I shouldnt comment further at this point, he commented to a reporter.
In January, Moss began his quest for a liquor license for the upscale, 21-story hotel, located across Fifth St. from the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged, or JASA, residence, where the community board committee meeting was held. But nearly a year later, Moss doesnt have a liquor license and appears to be even further away than before. The committee voted to approve the liquor license only if Moss would agree to several conditions, including closing three outdoor areas earlier in the evening than he wanted.
I dont think its a reasonable outcome right now, Moss said before declining comment again and leaving the building.
Community board approval is only an advisory recommendation to the S.L.A., meaning the S.L.A. could still approve a license. If the hotel group doesnt sign the agreement, it was expected that C.B. 3 would vote down the license at its full board meeting on Tues., Dec. 18. The S.L.A. will hold a 500-foot hearing for the hotels application on Jan. 8 because the hotel lies within 500 feet of at least three other bars. At the hearing, the developers will have to show that a bar at the hotel is in the public interest but not having community board support doesnt bode well.
Community impact is important, said S.L.A. spokesman Bill Crowley. We are going to take [community board] recommendations seriously.
This summer, the committee ordered Moss and his development team to negotiate an agreement with the E. Fifth St. Block Association, which has signed such agreements in the past with other bars in the area. This agreement would stipulate such aspects as operating hours for the hotels outdoor areas on the first and second floors. But the two parties never reached a signed agreement.
You came here [in the summer] and we said if you couldnt negotiate something, we would negotiate for you, Alexandra Militano, the committees chairperson, told Moss and his lawyer, Donald Bernstein, during the meeting.
Having to negotiate with the board proved unfortunate for Moss, since the boards conditions are tough: requiring earlier closing times and tighter restrictions on what kind of events could be held in the outside spaces than what the block association offered.
Im not sure why youre going further than what the block association wanted, Bernstein asked during the meeting.
According to the boards conditions: A first-floor garden must be closed at 9 p.m. every night; adjacent restaurant seating must be closed by 10 p.m. on the weekends; and a second-floor terrace must be off-limits by 8 p.m. every night. As in the block associations request, the board conditions stipulate that music will never be played in the outdoor spaces in question.
I dont know if its called a victory, said Jerry Orter, a member of the E. Fifth St. Block Association, which held a protest of about 40 people outside the building before the meeting. But I went over to Moss after the meeting and said were ready to work a deal.
C.B. 3 District Manager Susan Stetzer said the S.L.A. used to frequently give licenses without including a community board recommendation, but thats changed over the past two years.
If its something thats subject to the 500-foot rule and we offer a denial, then the law is that they have to prove its a benefit to the community, Stetzer said. Thats a hard standard to prove.
As of last week, Bernstein said he didnt know what course his client would take and that they were willing to talk to negotiate with the community again.
A lot of people have legitimate concerns, and were trying to address that, Bernstein said. Some other people wouldnt be happy until its torn down.
In addition to the outdoor bar spaces, the hotel also has applied for indoor bar spaces as part of its one overall liquor license application. Stetzer said its anyones guess what the S.L.A. might do if Moss refuses to sign the C.B. 3 committees agreement for the outdoor spaces.
They could theoretically approve the whole thing, deny the whole thing, approve the indoors and not extend it to the exterior, Stetzer said, or if Matt signs the thing, then it would be according to the stipulation.